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Photo by Matt D’Annunzio

Michael Bernard Jr. ’16


Hometown: Louisville, Kentucky

Who I was when I got to Reed: Growing up black and Korean in Kentucky, I was always the outsider, the guy who loved video games, technology, and building computers. I dropped out of college twice, and was a 26-year old father when I was accepted at Reed.

Favorite class: Law and Economics with Prof. Netusil was an intersection of laws and economic theory that helped me during my thesis. It was fun because I was already working at a legal services firm. The treats on exam days were awesome too!

Influential book: A New Economic View of American History by Jeremy Atack and Peter Passell. A compendium of economic analyses in each of the various stages of American history.

Outside the classroom: The Reed Financial Fellowship gave me the chance to see how New York City’s financial industry works on microscopic levels. If I ever go into finance it won’t be to become the wolf of Wall Street. I was a mentor in the Peer Program, played on the basketball team, saw Maya Angelou through a Gray Fund event, and enjoyed being a part of the Men of Color group.

Obstacles I overcame: When I started at Reed most of my peers were 18 and 19. The Peer Program helped me expand my boundaries and feel fully comfortable at Reed. I had developed this mental block where I would be out of place as a nontraditional student, but I felt at home here. The student body here is awesome.

How Reed changed me: At previous colleges I attended it was a lot of memorize and regurgitate. Reed helped me to think more critically, understand the very abstract and gain a more holistic approach to thinking. It taught me how to always dig deeper, work harder, think more critically, and never again feel intellectually insecure.

Thesis: Property Tax Law Implications on Urban Renewal Outcomes: A Case Study of Portland

What it’s about: An economic analysis of urban redevelopment in Portland, and how the city is affected by two distortionary property tax laws: Measure 5 and Measure 50. 

What it’s really about: Urban redevelopment may inadvertently create winners and many, many losers.

Scholarships, awards, or financial aid: Reed Financial Services Fellowship, Bernard Osher Foundation Reentry Scholarship, Harry and Virginia Wolf Scholarship, and Isabel Rotkin Scholarship. The college is incredibly understanding of individuals from lower socioeconomic positions and I was generously assisted by the financial aid office.

Word to prospies: This is a fantastic terrarium that allows you to learn as much as you want to, whatever your focus may be. You’ll have the best professors to help you. This is the place for a genuine pursuit of knowledge, and not a pursuit of prestige or grades.

What’s next: Technical project manager at a legal services firm in Beaverton. Considering an MBA.